By Mr. Mike Bowers (Leonard Wood)December 17, 2014
The Army is at a reflection point in history where technology and superior equipment have evened out, and the importance of the human dimension is paramount.
Fort Leonard Wood and the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence are at the forefront of integrating that concept into training, according to Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, U.S. Army Combined Arms Command commanding general.
The leader of the Army's Intellectual Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, visited the post Tuesday for an agenda that included a professional development session with captains attending career courses.
"We want the best equipment and technology, but human beings play a greater role than ever before," Brown said. "We need leaders who can improve and thrive in conditions of ambiguity and chaos. That's the human dimension."
"The Engineers have the best certification programs and broadening programs I've seen. They're great at developing leaders along with the Chemical and the Military Police. They're working these programs really hard and, in many cases, have the best programs I've seen," Brown added.
Fort Leonard Wood is home to the U.S. Army Engineer School; U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear School; and U.S. Army Military Police School.
"Fort Leonard Wood has some top-notch programs. They have the diversity and rigor in the courses they teach and understand how to teach creative and critical thinking skills," Brown said.
Soldiers should not go to school and get nothing out of it. They should get the credits and certifications that help motivate them and will apply when they transition out of the Army, according to Brown.
He said a key to human dimension is optimizing the human performance. We have a great incentive in that "lives are at stake and second place isn't a good thing," Brown said.
Optimization will happen through several lines of effort to include realistic training in replicating the complexity in the world, a complexity clouded in what Brown calls the fog of war.
He said the fog of war when he was a young Soldier was not having enough information.
"Lieutenant and Captain Brown got two to three pieces of information before making a decision. Today the fog of war is (getting) too much information," Brown said. Informational overflow includes hundreds of daily emails and dependency on multiple information processing devices such as tablets and smartphones, he said.
The challenge for leaders today, when looking at realistic training, is how to train leaders with overwhelming amounts of information, according to Brown.
"If you think of haystacks full of information, how do you find the golden needle in the haystack that helps you make the right decision?," he said. "You've got to train and practice, which is one way to optimize human performance."
Brown said cognitive dominance, such as Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's ahead-of-his-time understanding of how to keep coalitions together, understanding how to simplify complex problems and out thinking a very good enemy, is another optimization tool.
"They're doing it well here at MSCoE and really developing leaders who can out think any situation," he said.
Institutional agility also optimizes human performance, which Brown explained as "How do we get the side of the Army, when we're back at home station, as agile as when we're deployed?" He said the key is talent management of officers and again cited MSCoE as an example.
"They're optimizing human performance here," Brown said. "Engineers go and obtain advanced degrees more than any other school; Engineers go to the combat training centers more than any other organization. They're working that institutional agility."
Integrating learning concepts with digital immigrants (those who've been in the Army awhile) and the digital natives (those born into digital technology) is key to the human dimension, according to Brown while stressing that digital natives learn differently.
He said the Army is adjusting doctrine, giving young leaders the basic principles and encouraging innovation, and stimulating learning by interaction.
"We're creating living doctrine," Brown said. "It's a written product, but today's leaders learn through apps, podcasts and video -- all interactive, and we're seeing amazing results."
Cadets at West Point showed a 47 percent increase in retention after the history books were made into living documents, according to Brown.
"Optimizing human performance is challenging, and we're trying to put a process to it," he said. "If we're going to adjust, we have to be able to prove it. We can't be guessing."
Brown said it is now possible to measure the process of creating better leaders and we now know more about the brain in the last 10 years than the last 200 years combined. He said, as a young leader, he knew it was good to have goals for Soldiers, but didn't know why.
"Now we can actually show the portion of the brain that lights up when you have goals versus when you don't," Brown said. "We can prove the value of how the goals help move and motivate you towards that goal and the ups and downs of life."
No one has a crystal ball and combining what we know about human science and looking at how the world has changed is no hedge against uncertainty in the future, according to Brown.
"We may not predict what will happen, but the right leaders, cohesive teams of professionals who thrive in conditions of ambiguity and chaos can handle anything -- no matter what comes at us," he said.
Fort Leonard Wood's leader development and one-of-a-kind capabilities are preparing leaders that fit into Brown's vision of human development.
"I see great quality in those officers and leaders," Brown said. "It all starts here -- from the newest Soldier to the NCO and officer -- there's great training at Fort Leonard Wood. It gives me confidence in the future. There's no doubt about it."